What are the best adventure movies? Want to explore strange and foreign lands beyond your wildest dreams? Fancy seeking out ancient treasures, most likely surrounded by deadly booby traps that were a real hassle to construct just for a single-use? Brave enough to see some bad guys get their comeuppance in all manner of gruesome ways because greed, fortune, and glory got the better of them?
Well, it’s dangerous to go alone and find the best adventure movies out there, so instead, take this list of top tier entries to improve your weekend afternoon – or any other afternoon, for that matter. Comprised of undisputed classics, as well as some more recent incredible journeys, we’ve mapped out essential viewing to ensure you don’t waste your time watching anything but the most rousing offerings, all led by a wide variety of heroes.
From ass-kicking archaeologists to goodhearted gardeners, there’s not a single wrong turn to be found in what would make for an exceptional movie marathon. So watch your step (and these recommendations) – here are our picks.
What are the best adventure movies of all time?
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
- The Dark Crystal
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
- The Goonies
- Star Wars: A New Hope
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- The Pagemaster
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Fancy stretching your sea legs in your search for danger? You can’t go wrong with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Disney’s wild card based on one of its famous theme park rides could’ve easily sunk had it not been for Gore Verbinski being at the helm, and Johnny Depp coming aboard as the slurring, swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow.
Sure, there’s the supporting talent of Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom, but Depp still smuggles scenes away with ease, only rarely having to compete with Geoffrey Rush’s enigmatic Captain Barbossa. An eclectic crew sail, sword fight, and belch their way through a blockbuster that manages to surprise at almost every turn of the ship’s wheel, this is still an absolute treasure.
The Dark Crystal (1982)
As great as he was at creating heated relationships between talking pigs and frogs, one of Jim Henson’s most significant endeavours was an out-there adventure, The Dark Crystal. Lonely gelfling Jen’s heroic journey to restore the titular towering monument and battle the iconic and nightmare-inducing Skeksis is a magical watch even now.
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Demonstrating the best Jim Henson’s workshop had to offer, including the stoic urRu and exhaustingly frantic Fizzgig, The Dark Crystal still shines on.
In retrospect, Robin Williams’ Hook feels like a long-lost superhero origin story that dares to fly like no other Peter Pan adaptation has since. The journey of a mild-mannered father transforming into Pan the Man to save his kids is an “awfully big adventure” that sprinkles a new batch of fairy dust on an iconic character.
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Add in Dustin Hoffman’s ‘tash-twirling villain, along with sword (and food) fights set to John Williams’ chest-swelling score, and you’ve got a great adventure movie that is absolutely bangarang!
If we’re on the topic of adventure, then we have to talk about the babe. The other equally nuts but brilliant fantasy film from Jim Henson sees Jennifer Connolly try to rescue her baby step-brother after wishing him away to Jareth the Goblin King.
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While David Bowie steals the show as the big-haired, ball twiddling (no, we’re not referring to that codpiece) antagonist of the piece, there’s much to enjoy elsewhere, too, as Connolly gets lost in this Acid in Wonderland trip alongside a fantastic bunch of characters devised by Henson in his prime.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
Of all the daring efforts on this list, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has every reason not to work and yet it does. Modernising an already beloved property and retrofitting it around a superb quartet of characters, it isn’t just a great adventure but also one of the best videogame films ever made.
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Blending Tron and the first round of Jumanji, which starred Robin Williams, Welcome to the Jungle zips by at an incredible pace thanks to its massive set pieces and a self-aware cast, including Dwayne Johnson on top form, along for the ride. Changing the game that we loved, Welcome to the Jungle has a bit of fun for everyone – yes, even diehard fans of the first film – and all involved are clearly having bucket loads of it. Press start if you haven’t already.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Some of the greatest adventures are family affairs, and they don’t get better than Steven Spielberg’s third instalment in the Indiana Jones series. If seeing Indy thumping Nazis and outsmarting ancient trials isn’t compelling enough, witnessing him having to deal with his Dad along the way makes The Last Crusade one of the finer chapters.
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The story goes that Spielberg always had Sean Connery in mind to play the dad to Harrison Ford’s whip-cracking protagonist because, as far as he saw it, James Bond was the father of Indiana Jones. It’s a line of thinking that pays off massively, raising the stakes and adding more heart to an already pulse-raising picture. Choose wisely.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Peter Jackson’s perfect introduction to Tolkien’s world, and the One Ring bound to it, is still a chapter worth revisiting. So many hair-raising lines, so many unforgettable encounters woven together make for an epic, peril-filled adventure in which – unusually – the heroes seek to rid themselves of a treasure.
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Perfectly cast in just about every area, seeing Middle Earth’s mightiest heroes uniting always brings chills, and let’s be honest when it comes to fantasy The Lord of the Rings characters can’t be beaten. Be warned, though; you shall not pass this viewing without sticking the next one on straight after.
The Goonies (1985)
A kid’s treasure hunt that any youngster would love to go on. The Goonies’ search for One-Eyed Willy’s rich stuff made such an impact that some of the most popular films and TV shows are still trying to replicate its success years later.
From the second Mikey tells his friends the story of hidden treasure and finding the map that could lead them to it, it’s a dose of childhood awe and nostalgia that never fades. If you want to get lost on a Saturday afternoon, then The Goonies really are good enough.
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
As a daring first instalment in a series and franchise that would span decades, A New Hope has every crucial ingredient for an adventure. Knights and princesses, rogues and wizards, monsters and talking carpets.
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And yet Lucas’s sci-fi take was unlike anything we’d ever seen before. Regardless of what followed, there’s no denying young Skywalker’s trip across the stars is one for the ages.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones. Born from two of the most influential directors ever, the man in the hat’s first film manages to cram every second with excitement. Raiders of the Lost Ark is not just a phenomenal introduction to the hero that’s a hybrid of both Han Solo and 007, but just a near-perfect film in its entirety.
Harrison Ford’s grumbling good guy straps us into a rollercoaster ride, that you never want to get off. Can you honestly imagine cinema history without him?
The Pagemaster (1994)
You’re never alone with a good book, and this crossover of live-action and animation is a testament to that. When young Richard Tyler (Macauley Culkin) escapes into a library during a thunderstorm, he gets caught up in a mythical animated quest involving some of the finest novels ever written.
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Three anthropomorphic books, horror (Frank Welker), fantasy (Whoopi Goldberg), and adventure (Patrick Stewart), provide Richard with some company on the perilous journey. Joe Johnston, of Captain America: The First Avenger, directed the live-action parts, while Maurice Hunt handled the animated scenes. Classic literary scenes and characters are brought to bright, colourful life, proving that, as the Pagemaster himself puts it, all is possible.